Trent Meacham helped lead the Illinois basketball team to a 24-10 record in 2008-09 and an NCAA playoff berth. He improved markedly each year on campus, enough to be signed to a contract to play with WBC Raiffeisen Wels in Austria this past winter.
"I averaged about 15-16 points a game and four assists, so I had a pretty good year. We were able to play some international competition. We got to travel and go to Istanbul, Germany, Belgium. So that was fun."
Hitting 50% from the three point line helped make him a valuable enough commodity to be hired to play with Goettinger in Germany, Chester Frazier's old team, next season.
"I think that helps. The defense wasn't quite at the Big 10 level, but it'll be a step up as I go to Germany. There are a lot of American players there. I hope to get the same opportunities next year with my new team.
"The German league is a good league. My team will be playing in the Europe Cup, which is real good competition. It'll be a really good opportunity for me."
To keep in shape and hone his skills, the Champaign product has been an occasional participant in informal Illini pickup games on campus. He offers his thoughts on their potential this winter.
"A lot of potential. It's just a matter of them coming together and jelling. I think they can have a great year. You've got three guys in Demetri (McCamey), Mike (Tisdale) and Mike (Davis) who've been starting for 3-4 years, a lot of experience. I think they're hungry this year to really do something."
Jereme Richmond is the most highly rated of three entering freshmen. Meacham is excited about his abilities.
"I haven't seen him play a whole lot. But with Jereme, he can do a lot of things. He's so multi-talented, he can fit in at different positions, guard different positions. On offense he can handle the ball, pass and make some plays.
"I don't think they need him to come in and score 15-20 points a game. He'll do that some nights, but that's not his thing. I think he'll find ways to fit in.
"I think he can be a great defender. He's got a good feel for the game. It's different when the pressure picks up and the defense is there. But I think he's gonna do great."
Meacham and fellow seniors Chester Frazier and Calvin Brock made their senior seasons their best, sacrificing self-interests for the sake of team goals. They were highly motivated for success in their last go-round. Meacham believes that same feeling is possible with the upcoming seniors.
"I think you have more incentive because it's your last go-around. Maybe my last year we overachieved from peoples' expectations.
"There's a lot of good teams with a lot of good potential, and they're definitely one of them this year. I think those guys are hungry. From what I've seen, they've been working hard this summer. They're playing well and playing together, and that's the biggest thing. If they can do that, they can really be good this year."
Meacham agrees the biggest improvement comes if upperclassmen provide consistent leadership like he, Frazier and Brock did.
"I think so. Initially, you have to sacrifice for everybody on the team. But they've got some great pieces. I think the guys have a great attitude, a great work ethic. So if they put that together, they can be really dangerous."
Meacham will have his own challenges overseas.
"A different language is tough, when you can't communicate with people. We hear more people speak English in Germany. But it's good to see different approaches. You learn a lot from it."
It has helped to have his wife, the former Theresa Lisch, at his side.
"If my wife wasn't there, I probably would have come back that first week. She helps a lot. It's great for us to go through this together. We had so much time to spend together. I worked 3-4 hours a day, and then we had the rest of the days just to hang out together. It was great to share that with someone.
"She helps me a lot, more so mentally when it comes to the game. She's a better player than me, a great competitor."
The future is uncertain, but Meacham is happy to continue his basketball career for now.
"I'm thinking one year at a time. That's all I can really do. I'm really enjoying it, it's a great experience. It's a different world. We'll go this year and see how it goes and go from there."